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Thursday, 15 March 2018

Tomb Raider (2018)

(M) ★★

Director: Roar Uthaug.

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas.

"I swear this tank top was teal when I woke up this morning."
The curse of the video game movie continues.

Another great white hope has fallen out of the gate, stumbling its way through a clumsy plot to once again prove that apparently - for whatever reason - computer games can't be turned into films. This is despite the fact we'd already seen how not to make a Tomb Raider film. Twice. You'd think lessons were learnt there. Evidence suggests the contrary.

This Tomb Raider is not as bad as that other supposed saviour of the genre, Assassin's Creed, which featured ever-increasing piles of dumb, but it's also no better than Warcraft, which failed valiantly in its quest to rid the curse. And it's marginally better than the two Tomb Raider films in which Angelina Jolie pulled on the teal tank top of Lara Croft, but that's damning it with faint praise.

Donning the singlet in this reboot is Alicia Vikander. Her Croft is young, feisty and still upset about the death of her father (West) seven years earlier. She has resisted inheriting the wealth he bequeathed her, and instead scrapes by as a bicycle courier.

But the call to adventure that claimed her father is now beckoning her to a mysterious Japanese island where a number of very bad men are searching for the body of a supposedly cursed queen who could bring about the end of the world.

The biggest plus here is Vikander. She's great in the lead role, nailing the accent and throwing herself into the action scenes. She also imbues Croft with the right amount of bravery and fear as she dives headlong into the unknown. This is Croft with her training wheels still on, which is one of the few interesting aspects of the film.

It's a shame Vikander doesn't have a better movie in which to raid tombs. The film's script wobbles from average to bad. It starts out okay as it sets up who Croft is, but any time is has to dive into where her father went or what he was doing, it struggles to do so without boring info-dumping or pointless flashbacks.

Once it gets to its destination, the film doesn't fair much better. Goggins is so close to being a good villain but is too aloof to be really menacing, and the plot bounces from set-piece to set-piece like, well, a computer game with boring or inane cut scenes in between.

And therein lies a lot of the problem. In trying to capture what was great about the game - the puzzle-solving and the tomb raiding - the movie ends up feeling like a bad version of a game in which you can't participate. The puzzles may have been cool on a console, but are silly and over-the-top on film, and pretty quickly it devolves into a poor rip-off of Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade, except the bizarre puzzles in that film had a point - they flowed into that movie's themes of faith and belief. And Tomb Raider has no such depth - it's merely a string of so-so action pieces, with the best being an escape from a crashed plane atop a waterfall and the worst involving a falling floor and coloured keys.

To be fair, every lost-tomb-archaeologist adventure owes a debt to Indy's travails, and Croft's creators were no doubt influenced by the whipcracking hero. But Tomb Raider struggles to find any new ground (particularly in terms of the father-offspring dynamic) that wasn't covered better in Last Crusade. Despite Vikander and West's best efforts, they can't elevate their relationship to something worth caring about, leaving a heart-shaped hole in proceedings.

The script also lacks humour, no characters are developed outside of the Crofts, and when you get down to it, the actual tomb raiding is nothing special either.

It would be a shame for Vikander's stint as Croft to be limited to this film, because she deserves a shot at playing the role in a better movie. But if this is the best anyone can offer third time around, then Lara Croft should probably stick to the consoles.

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